Tell me about Acupuncture

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Just found out my vet is a qualified acupuncturist.  She hasn’t suggested trying it for my boy though but going toaskher about it.  He has DJD in shoulder after having biceps tendon issues.

How well do dogs tolerate it ? And how long is a session and how often do you need it . I’m sure the vet will tell all but nothing like first hand experiences

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Hello Emchammer,

Do speak to your vet as acupuncture can be very beneficial as part of the multimodal management of chronic pain. Acupuncture works through many pathways both locally and centrally to modulate the transmission of potentially painful nerve signals to the brain (where all pain occurs). Needling also modulates blood flow and has effects that trigger and support the body’s own healing and pain relieving mechanisms. We are recently also beginning to learn more about the beneficial effects of acupuncture on the myofascial system. As well as ‘dry needling’, electroacupuncture may also be performed for additional needle stimulation. Acupuncture works well in conjunction with other therapies such as physiotherapy, laser, hydrotherapy and myotherapy and is best used as part of a multimodal approach that includes these therapies, pain medication, home and lifestyle adaptations and nutritional management including weight loss where needed.

Approximately 80% of dogs seem to respond well to acupuncture (the same as we see in people), with 20% either not responding or not fully responding. We don’t at this time know the reason for this, and it is likely to be multi-factorial. Some drugs may inhibit acupuncture effects.

I have practised acupuncture within a dedicated pain practice for the past 11 years. In my experience the vast majority of dogs tolerate it very well, and often become sleepy and very relaxed once the needles are in place. By and large, for pain management, we recommend an initial longer consultation lasting 60-90 minutes followed by weekly consultations of around 30 minutes for a further 2-3 weeks. Following this the treatment interval will depend on the individual patient and their needs and we aim to stretch the treatment interval to the longest possible whilst still maintaining therapeutic effect. Most dogs with chronic pain issues will be on a maintenance plan of 4-8 weekly treatments with additional treatments being possible should they flare. Most maintenance appointments last about 30 minutes.

My patients often will relax well in a veterinary surgery, and home visits can be beneficial at times; if they can’t travel, for instance.

More information can be found on the abva website at

Take care.

Warm wishes,


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Hi lola-mum,

I’m glad acupuncture is helping her. With any back issue,s free swimming can exacerbate things as there is more uncontrolled side to side and general movement in the back when free swimming. This is often especially the case when core strength is also reduced.

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My dog has acupuncture every 2 weeks. It really helps her with her OA in her spine and hips and she tolerates it really well.

I also tried hydrotherapy but she didn’t really take to using the water walker and the woman who runs the center said that swimming in a pool may not be good for her back. Is this right?

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To be honest this will all depend on the individual dog. Most dogs tolerate it really well, so long as they are relaxed at the vets. If they are a very anxious or boisterous dog at the practice then it may not be so easy!

I’m not an acupuncturist but I certainly think that it would benefit your dog to help relieve tension around the area. It may be that other areas of the body, besides the shoulder itself, would benefit too though this would be determined by your vet on clinical exam.

If it is the case that your dog doesn’t like the vets and gets quite agitated it may be worth asking if the sessions can be done at home at all..

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